The Chicago Blackhawks walked away from Antti Niemi's one-year $2.75 million arbitration ruling this morning and promptly announced they agreed to terms with Marty Turco for what's reported as a one-year deal worth between $1 and $1.5 million. Niemi is now an UFA and is free to deal and sign with any team and any price thrown his way.
In the past two years, I've written School of Block articles called The Turco Transition and The Turco Turnaround. Now it's time for the Turco Takeover. So let's quickly break down the fantasy impact today's movement has on a couple of goalies and their upcoming seasons.
To further expand on this subject and Niemi's future, I'll be answering fantasy questions in the forums all afternoon. I might also go back and add a goalie or two to my feature in Dobber's 2010 Fantasy Guide as August goes along. I spent most of my Sunday afternoon reading the guide and I can say without any hesitation that it is the best guide he has created since I started writing for him in 2007. Make sure to pick up your copy now!
Corey Crawford – Has finally secured that elusive NHL gig. With Cristobal Huet being forced into the minors for salary cap issues, it is no secret that the Blackhawks are ready to see what he's made of. He has the skills, confidence and most importantly the mental toughness to be a great backup in Chicago. He plays a pure Quebec butterfly style (influenced by Huet) with good upper body positioning and the wherewithal to succeed whether he plays 10 games or closer to 30.
Although there will be some growing pains as he adjusts to playing less but against much better competition, he'll be guided by Hawks goalie coach Stephane Waite and mentored by Marty Turco. As such, he'll have no problem establishing a bigger presence in the organization and build up his reputation. If he plays 20-25 games expect 12-15 wins and a strong save percentage. He will notch one or two shutouts and should receive a few chances to string together some starts and wins.
Hannu Toivonen – Is a perfect fit for the starting role in Rockford. With Alec Richards and Joe Palmer fighting for the second spot, Toivonen brings experience, solid skills and great size to the crease. He's still a capable goalie with pretty limited NHL upside, but doesn't have the long-term potential as Crawford, nor has he paid the same dues and displayed the same kind of patience. He's a very serviceable and durable